Vancouver Decorates Its Sidewalks


Don’t talk to my friend Sam about sidewalk decoration. He’ll snort and expound upon the many ways in which it’s useless. I take a more sympathetic position towards it: I think it enhances the pedestrian experiences, especially if the decoration combines aesthetic or artistic value with practical or historical information. At its best, it creates a sense of place and yet another interesting detail in the urban fabric.

On many downtown Vancouver sidewalks, the shape of leaves have been stamped into the pavement beneath a street tree. There’s something playful and childlike about them; I find it hard to imagine roughneck construction workers actually taking a moment to draw fallen leaves in the wet concrete they just poured. I especially like the fact that a variety of leaves are represented.

Elsewhere around town, twelve mosaics created of Vancouver scenes by local artists have been installed in the sidewalk as part of an Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association initiative. Some of the mosaic images are a bit cliché — no doubt the BIA had a hand in picking the themes — but some are nice homages to overlooked bits of Vancouver heritage, like a collage of Vancouver’s most notable architectural features and a jumble of famous neon signs.

Two more features that caught my eye in Vancouver: in Chinatown, the Chinese versions of the neighbourhood’s street names have been inscribed in gold-plated characters on the sidewalk and on the base of lampposts.

On busy streets like Burrard, the word “LOOK” has been stencilled into the pavement to prevent pedestrians from stepping into curbside traffic. With its green backdrop and owl eyes, it’s far more eye-catching than the “Look Right” signs found throughout London and Hong Kong.




This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Tuesday October 09 2007at 11:10 am , filed under Art and Design, Canada, Public Space and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

3 Responses to “Vancouver Decorates Its Sidewalks”

  • Andrew says:

    More on your comment of finding it hard to imagine roughneck construction workers taking a moment to draw fallen leaves in the wet concrete.

    I was at a concrete factory where acoustic highway panels were being made. The government wanted trees drawn into the panels, so there were construction workers using a stick and drawing trees, and leaf/bark patterns onto the freshly poured concrete!

    It was amazing because a) it never occurred to me that construction workers would be doing the art, and b) I wondered whether they enjoyed it as a break to the monotonous pouring they do.

  • Neath says:

    The contractors who used to do the sidewalks here used to leave a stamp in the cement with the year written on it. All over the island here and there every now and then I see one that is a leaf that says “Company name” 1959 or into the 60’s.

  • …And there are more examples. One can be found at a VirtualTourist’s website